View Full Version : Clamp-on rod holders - WARNING

03-24-2011, 06:27 AM
I recently ordered and installed a set of West Marine brand Stainless Steel clamp-on rod holders and installed them on my boat. On 17 March, 2011 while trolling off Cape Hatteras I had a strike on a rather light Billfisher trolling rod with a Penn International 30 TW reel spooled with 130 lb. braid line which was seated in the clamp-on rod holder. The rod tube immediately broke loose from the clamp and all went overboard. All of my trolling rods are set with 12 to 14 lbs. of tip pressure, so the strike setting on the reel was not the issue.

The problem is that these rod holders (West Marine and many other branded holders) are badly designed and that design flaw is not evident to the typical user until there is a failure.
The specific problem is that the two screws which attach the clamp to the tube are entirely too short AND they are screwed into the a soft metal insert in the sleeve that holds the rod butt. See picture. By comparison, I also have two SeaSense SS rod holders, which I disassembled. Their tube attachment screws are twice as long as the West Marine brand (and similar ones) and the sleeve holders appear to be much thicker and heavier.
The bottom line is that you need to disassemble any clamp on rod holders you have and check these screws. As a minimum, you should coat them with permanent (red) lock tight. If these are the short screws, have the base spot welded to the rod holder tube, which is what I did.


03-24-2011, 01:28 PM
did you loose your fishing gear too when this happen ? i hope not because it sounds like some pretty expensive fishing gear. good luck

03-24-2011, 05:21 PM
Yep - lost the Penn International 30 TW and the rod overboard. NOW THE GOOD NEWS - I contacted West Marine, they sent a claim form, which I filed and they turned the whole thing around in less than 48 hours. They are covering everything - rod, reel, line, etc. That's what I call GREAT customer service.

1973 Browning Marine
03-28-2011, 09:21 PM
Yeah, West Marine is pretty awesome and they carry some nice gear. I am glad they at least covered your losses. Alot of guys rig up their poles with rope or bunjie cords just in case but that is for flush mount rod holders. I just installed three 15 degree stainless steel rod holders on my boat. That's a heck of a feeling watching a pole launch out of the back of a boat. Those Penn Reels aren't cheap either. I will remember your post while trolling! lol

03-29-2011, 05:57 AM
I'm still wrestling with making a workable safty lanyard that will work with both clamp-on's and gunnel-mounted rod holders. The problem is getting a hook or clamp that will quickly disconnect when you need to pull out the rod to fight a fish. Any ideas?

03-29-2011, 01:24 PM
Here's how we used to do it in the offshore world; I'm sure you'll have to modify the details to make it 'work' on your vessel. For conventional reels.

Get as many spring loaded stainless steel snap hooks as you have rods that need to be secured. attach a 10' length og 3/8" braided line via an eyesplice to the hook. Snap hook onto harness lug on reel. Secure other end of braid to vessel (we used the fighting chair pedestal). You can move the rod as needed and then unclip it after things settle down. The snap hook lets you remove it with just one hand - helpful when clearing the cockpit.

Seen the concept used on larger spinning tackle but not in detail. Looked like the guys had oval shaped stainless rings that went over the reel seat. I suspect they had rubber bands to secure the rings to the back of the handle when fighting a fish but that's on speculation on my part.

03-30-2011, 07:34 AM

Thanks for the advice - It's offshore rods and reels I'm talking about - Penn International 50 TW's and 30 TW's - but don't use (or have room for) a fighting chair, it's all stand-up. I typically troll 6 or 7 lines - two on each outrigger, two off the transom, and sometimes a flat line off the center. I guess I'm concerned about my fishing guests getting tangled up in the safety lanyards. I bought several SS spring-loaded snap hooks, which I will try out. But I have already determined that they are not easy to attach and detach - looking for something else..

03-31-2011, 12:11 PM
May want to see if you can find smaller ones. Another option - Penn used to make a clamp for the reel seats with a ring attached. Think they are a bit larger (opening) than the harness lugs and they let you keep your fingers away from a revolving spool.

You don't have to use the chair to anchor the lanyards; transom cleats work well, too.

Personally, I never found any rod holder suitable for offshore fishing that wasn't 1)welded to the tower/hardtop or 2) thru bolted to the gunnel. I've witnessed several blue marlin strikes that detected "installation flaws" in the gunnel mounted holders.

03-31-2011, 01:57 PM
Roger that on the Blue marlin strikes. Personally never had one, but know many that tell me it's like hooking on to a high speed freight train.

The idea of installing a SS loop as a replacement for one of the rod clamp studs sounds promising.Will try that and let you know how it works.

03-31-2011, 03:30 PM
found the Old Penn International booklet - try searching on 033R114 for a 30T or 50T size gold reel. I've heard of using a cast eye bolt in place of a clamp stud but haven't seen one...imagine it would work as well as the ringed clamp with a bit shorter profile.

03-31-2011, 05:41 PM
Forgot to add: I've been blessed to have seen a few of those big beasts....and yes, some hit like freight trains and some have hit as gently as a rockfish in 45 deg water...

03-31-2011, 07:07 PM
I bought the same ones and realized the same thing. You have to make sure they stay tight and take them off and tighten them up once in a while. It does not give you a lot of confidence.

03-31-2011, 07:32 PM
"Removable" Loc-tite (or an equivalent) will keep the fasteners tight.

04-01-2011, 06:11 AM
Makomark -

I've replaced one of the rod clamp studs on one of the Penn 50W's with a SS eye bolt and will take it down to the boat in a day or too and see how it works out. If all goes well, I'll post pictures.

FYI - if you look at the picture I posted, it clearly shows that the screws in question were already coated with blue Loc-tite. I think what happened is that the screws pulled out of the rather soft base metal that is attached to the rod holder tube sleeve because they were too short, and the backing metal was too soft. I've come to the conclusion that the only way to really secure the rod holder tube to the clamp is to spot weld them. That still gives me the ability to set the tube angle any way I need to.